As the second round of playoffs between the Lightning and Montreal Canadiens stretches out to at least six games, the path winds its way back through Amalie Arena for what will be the last game in Tampa for at least one of the two teams. Veteran forward Brenden Morrow and head coach Jon Cooper spoke to the media about the ongoing series and we asked them specifically about playing this next game at home.
It's common knowledge that the Lightning were formidable at home during the regular season, posting a record of 32-8-1. However, through six games played at home so far in the playoffs, they're only 3-3. Everyone says playoff hockey is different than the regular season but what specifically has affected the team's home performance?
Brenden Morrow - "Not sure. Not sure what the issue has been. If we could have started this year saying we'd be going home to play an elimination game here at home I think no matter who had the momentum going into the game, we would have loved to have that opportunity. I think we just need to rise to the challenge. We had a real emotional series against Detroit There may be a bit of a hangover from that because we haven't played our best hockey but we've got a couple of days here to refresh and recharge and hopefully come out with our best effort in Game Six."
Is there additional pressure resultant from the situation in which the Lightning find themselves?
Jon Cooper - "The second you make the playoffs, there's just added pressure. Game 1 against Detroit, there was pressure, Game 6 against Detroit, there was pressure. Game 7 against Detroit, there was pressure. There's pressure all the time. It builds as a series goes on. I don't look at this as, because we were up three game to zero and now its three games to two that there's any added pressure. The goal is to get to four games. it doesn't matter how you get there. I think that if this series goes seven and we win four games to three, people aren't going to write that we blew a three-nothing lead and won the series, it's just going to be that we won the series. Ultimately, I don't view this as extra pressure on us. We did a good job of getting to a three-nothing lead, We've dropped our last two which is unfortunate, But the series is still going and there's still a lot of hockey to be played. We're coming home where we feel really comfortable playing and I don't feel that we should throw added extra pressure on us. We're already playing in the middle of May. There's only six or seven teams left in the playoffs and we're one of them. And so a big part of this is embrace this, embrace this moment, embrace this challenge, When we look in the mirror the next day, just say we laid it all on the line and have fun with it. That's the way we're kind of looking at it."
So with that said, why do the Lightning seem to be having less fun at home during the postseason?
Cooper - "Well, to be honest, I don't know if 'fun' is the right word. I've been using that word meaning to embrace the challenge. I think we've played at home a little differently in the playoffs than we did during the regular season. Just in the sense that I think we're people pleasers. You kind of want to do things to please the crowd and get things excited and maybe do this extra move or this extra something you have in your head, Whether you've got your family, your friends or people in the stands, I think the guys are almost trying too hard to win at home. I think part of the answer is, let's take a breath. Yeah, have fun with it, Like, play to our system, play to our structure. But embrace the crowd and suck up the energy that they're giving us, but not to the point where we're trying to put on a show for them. I don't know whether that comes in the aspect of 'fun' or falls under those parameters, but we've got to kind of loosen up a little bit when we're at home because I think that at times we play just a little bit too tight. We've gotten by a little bit with it, but we need to really feed off their energy and use it to drive us instead of making us a little more uptight."
Game Six of the series will take place at Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday night at 7 PM.